5/13/2011 11:25 AM ET|
Do smart cars kill the joy of driving?
'Smart car' features are becoming more common. Do motorists welcome the convenience, or are cars becoming too bossy?
For decades, science fiction writers have fantasized about cars that can drive themselves. That fantasy quickly is becoming a reality.
More vehicles now have "smart car" features, such as brakes that activate if you approach an object; electronic stability control systems that improve handling by preventing skids; technology that answers text messages so you can keep your eyes on the road; radar that extends your awareness of other vehicles and objects; systems that warn you if a collision is likely, based on your speed and proximity to other vehicles; adaptive cruise control that adjusts speed to keep a safe distance between vehicles; and sensors that help you navigate into parallel-parking spaces.
Some futurists predict a day when technology will connect intelligent vehicles with high-tech highways to provide a seamless flow of traffic.
Google also has been working on self-driving cars that use artificial-intelligence software. Still years from commercial production, the prototypes have shown promise. Seven Google test cars have driven 1,000 miles without a human in control.
Such cars could open up new transportation possibilities for people who are disabled or otherwise unable to drive. It's even possible that "smart car" technology could lead to cheaper car-insurance rates.
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But will all these changes steal the fun from driving?
More free time, less road rage?
Randal O'Toole, author of "Gridlock: Why We're Stuck in Traffic and What to Do About It," has studied the ways people navigate through traffic. He acknowledges that some people have told him they would miss the experience of controlling their own car.
But he thinks most people would welcome cars that assume more driving responsibilities.
"When I point out that they can do many other productive and interesting things when the car steers itself, their eyes light up and they realize that could be a good thing," he says.
Drivers "will try these things, find they like them, and then use them more and more," he says. Devices that make cars easier to drive "are just too convenient for people to ignore."
Samuel Staley, director of urban growth and land-use policy at the Reason Foundation, a nonprofit public-policy organization in Los Angeles, says he has no qualms about surrendering control of cars to computers. They almost certainly will do a better job of driving than humans, he asserts.
"It does minimize the human error involved in driving, which is one of the biggest issues in causing accidents," he says. "If they get to the point where they can drive themselves, the safety benefits are substantial."
"Smart car" technology also may help keep drunk drivers off the road, says Brenda Frachiseur, assistant state executive director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving in California.
"MADD is a big proponent of advanced technology in vehicles," she says. "We have embraced the whole idea of automated safety features, devices that could actually tell if a drunk driver was on board. The technology exists, it just hasn't been implemented in vehicles."
Driver alcohol-detection systems are being developed that use sensors that measure blood alcohol content through the skin. Breath-analyzer systems that prevent cars from starting if the driver is intoxicated already are in use. The latter are sometimes court-ordered for people convicted of driving while intoxicated.
Where are the insurance discounts?
Consumers likely would welcome high-tech safety features in cars if they result in discounts and better car insurance rates. David Snyder, vice president and associate general counsel for the American Insurance Association, says this has not yet occurred on a large scale.
"I have not seen much evidence of any widespread discounts," he says. "One thing we urge all buyers to do is to query agents about what discounts are available. They should check with their insurance agent before they buy the car."
Generally, insurers are cautious and slow to create new auto insurance discounts for devices that reduce risks, says Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, a nonprofit organization that provides information to insurance consumers.
Peter Moraga, spokesman for the Insurance Information Network of California, says auto insurance discounts sometimes are offered for safety devices. However, discounts are usually discontinued when use of the devices becomes commonplace, as in the case of airbags.
When everyone uses a safety device, special auto insurance discounts no longer can be justified, he says.
This article was reported by Emmet Pierce for Insurance.com.
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Although many drivers appear to lack a brain, I have a hard time believing AI is ready to replace a person's judgment...
Discounts are nice, but like tax sticks and carrots (I mean, deductions), I recoil at how manipulative it all seems sometimes.
Last but not least, is it any surprise people's "eyes light up" at the thought of increased productivity? We must multitask to prove our value. Is there a moment of the day left where we don't need to be engaged in 50 zillion different things at once? Yeesh. Next they'll be talking up all the things you could be doing while sleeping or using the bathroom. I guarantee someone will read this and think that's a great idea.
I think that the people whose "eyes light up" at the mention of a car that will steer for them are the people who should be OFF the road. Permanently.
Please, if you don't want to drive and actually focus on driving (what a concept), please just get off the road. Bike, Take the bus, Ride with a friend, whatever. But if you don't enjoy the experience, please don't drive because YOU are the ones creating the problems for the rest of us who actually do.
I also think that what would make people better drivers, is if they had more experience "driving" before they were given a license. In my case I grew up on a farm, and was driving tractors, and other machinery when I was around 8-9 yrs. old. In those days you didn't need a license to drive farm equipment, I guess these days you do, don't know. Anyway, I had around 7-8 yrs. experience driving when I went to get my drivers license, and passed with flying colors. Since that time I have driven anything, and everything from a go-kart to an eighteen-wheeler, with no problems. One of the things I do when driving is pay attention to driving my vehicle, when you are the driver "DRIVE THE VEHICLE"! You're not behind that wheel to do ANYTHING ELSE! Also, I drive the speed limits or sometimes a little slower, they were posted for a reason, and it helps to save fuel. Next, WATCH OUT FOR THE OTHER GUY! You never know what they will do, always expect the unexpected! LEAVE YOURSELF AN OUT! Follow what I have said here, and you will be home everynight to have dinner with your family.
Another thing we need more of in this country is better Passenger Rail Service, that's so we can travel long distances on holidays, etc., without having to shoehorn our way onto the roads and interstates in this country. It would also lower our insurance rates among other things, and when we arrived home we wouldn't be a jumble of nerves! The U.S. is "WAY BEHIND THE TIMES" when it comes to Passenger Rail Service! Just go over to Europe (France, Germany), you'll see what I mean.
With more and more computers controlling cars if there is an accident caused by the computer who is going to be responsible. I'll take blame for my mistake but if a computer causes the wreck I don't think that my insurance rate should go up. Likewise I don't want a computer to second guess me. I know what I want the car to do. With the airbags the manufacturer isn't responsible for any injury they cause that would not have been incurred if the airbag hadn't deployed. Computer glitches are hard to duplicate and fix. You shouldn't have several pages of warnings on a mandated safety device.
As for the social networking I don't want everyone to know where I am . That's why I left home. If I am in a neighborhood it's one thing to recognize my car and another to say "I looked on Google and saw you were in the neighborhood. Why didn't you stop by?" It kinda defeats the idea to say. "I didn't want to see you."
Before we could get in our cars and go for a ride and not be bothered with calls and conversations we didn't want. It was the one place where we could be alone and enjoy the scenery or whatever. Now our thoughts are interrupted by people who we don't want to talk to and are the reason we went out in the first place.
Do smart cars kill the joy of driving?
Are you kidding. I laugh my a$$ off every time my GPS voice says something like, “right turn in 24ft., or when it routes me through some alley behind a biker bar and past the loading docks instead of taking a boulevard, just to shorten my travel distance by ¼ mile. It’s the same kind of sad joke I sense when Map Quest gives me nine travel instructions to get to the stop sign at the end of my street, or when some high frequency trading computer sells a $40 stock for two cents. I enjoy all these little reminders of just how dumb smart technology really is.
Don't people realize that most of us learned how to drive on carburated, rear wheel drive, steel tanks? I know many of us learned on cars without power steering even. Electronic assistance on modern cars has gone overboard.
Fortunately, most of these "Toys" can be turned off at your discretion. I will agree that features such as traction control and anti-lock braking system has tamed the very powerful cars of our day and made them much more drivable to the generally poor drivers that make up the silly "Yuppie’s" that buy them. I had an opportunity to drive a loaded high end M3 BMW the other day (I own a 6 years old modleM5), wonder car, but so laden with "Tinker toy Gadgets" like Multi-range gear boxes and limited slip/locking/multi-range differentials, anti-roll active suspension, multiple different driving modes including engine de-tuning modes... All to make a car that is a pleasure to drive seem robotic and sterile. IMO, these cars are not for the people who rely on gadgetry in order to drive. They should be bought by those who appreciate it for what they are and are capable of rather then what it say’s about your status and wallet. Some other makers, Mercedes Benz, Audi, Cadillac (nearly all the high end saloons) are filled with similar gadgetry. Same with high end sports cars. All the safety measures are understandable and predictable; perhaps even necessary, given the driver pool that exists. Ask an inexperience newly moneyed goof to drive an older Porsche 911 with a 3.3 or a Turbo, a car that can and will frighten the best of drivers in the turns and he/she will likely never even approach the capabilities of that cars performance. Give that same inexperience person of newly found wealth and fun the same car with all the gadgets and it takes much of the “scary” under - steer and over powered drift experience away. Allowing them to proclaim their ever-growing dominance over the World and everything in it (despite that fact they really can’t drive to save their life.) Money and technology have brought very powerful cars to the roads. Something those of us who grew up in the late 70’s and 80’s saw disappear under the feet of tree huggers world wide, leaving us with plastic EPA laden trash to hang stupid spoilers and 28” rims on. It seems very unfortunate that this generation of drivers is far more likely to be “Texting there friends or watching a DVD while driving then paying attention or enjoying the road.
The gadgetry has even moved down the “Cost” scale a great deal. Yet, I find it silly packing traction control and computer assisted steering technology into cars like the Toyota Camry and Kia Sorrento. To many it would seem like plugging a laptop into a Model T. Sure it seems silly… but in the interest of keeping your children alive, perhaps necessary? I guess if it help the little miss get home without plowing her new little shiny car into the guy in front of her while she texts her BFF about what color lipstick to wear with a particular dress... Fine, have at it.... But at least the insurance companies can follow with lowered rates... Again, however… IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN. Auto insurance is without a doubt the biggest rip-off in the long term of any of the insurances you can buy. No because it is not handy when needed, but because it is needed so infrequently in relationship with the amounts paid monthly, it has GOT to be a scam of all scams.
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